Where Did the Ugg Boot Come From?February 22nd, 2010
America’s love-hate relationship with the fuzzy footwear phenomenon known as uggs has gone on now for almost a decade. Sadly, the go-go boots of the naughts (’00s) show few signs of going away. This fashion fad has left many wondering where exactly uggs came from. More importantly, people want to know, “Is the ugg is here to stay?” Often this question is followed by the thought, “Where can I get my own ugly footwear?” because, after all, no one wants to be left out.
If you’ve somehow missed this brand name buzz, or thought that ugg was just a hip, slang word for ugly, used when describing this fuzzy slipper-boot, chances are good that you’ve seen them whether you realized it or not. Uggs have been worn by many A-list celebrities throughout the 2000s. Oprah Winfrey dedicated almost an entire show to them in 2005 and they have adorned the feet of many women (and some men) both young and old since they arrived in American stores around 2003.
Looking something like boots one would expect to see on an Eskimo in the Tundra, Uggs are commonly seen worn with bathing suits, mini-skirts, or shorts in the summer months and become the focal point of the outfit. So, has the fashion world simply gone mad or is there something to the intentional fashion faux pas? The time has come to answer all the questions left behind by uggs, so we, as a nation, can put them to rest once and for all.
Where did the ugg come from? Most people will tell you that UGG Australia is the brainchild of Australian Brian Smith, who first brought his bag of sheep skins to America in 1978 with a plot to take over the country two feet at a time. This is not the complete story, however. Before the UGG, with two capital G’s, there was the ug, the ugg, the ugh, and even the fug. If ugg means ugly what does fug mean? Get your mind out of the gutter; a fug is a flying ugg, worn by WWI pilots.
Way back in the early 1900s Aussies had a lot of sheep and cold feet; thus the ugg was born. Simple sewn scraps of sheep skin and wool made a comfortable, inexpensive, warm sock-like covering for the feet. The name, depending on the source, comes either from their less than flattering appearance or from the fact that, “they ‘ug your feet mate.”
From sheep, to pilots, to Australian surfers, uggs became the basic Australian sneaker when price, function, and warmth outweighed fashion. That is, of course, before uggs came to America. Now, you have to pay at least $100, and usually more, for that kind of ugly.
The 1960s saw a change in ugg manufacturing when a company called Uggs and Rugs decided to add seams to the boots that contoured the feet along with soft soles, making them more physically appealing. Other manufacturers soon followed suit, including the now famous UGG Australia brand founded by Brian Smith. It was at this point that Smith took uggs to America determined to find a buyer. Sales were poor until Smith went to the beaches of California and focused his marketing on surfers. What is it about surfers that draw them to uggs? Frigid water and hot sand are the bane of surfers feet and uggs could be slipped on and off with ease, protecting, while warming the feet. From the beaches came a tidal wave of fashion that swept across the nation spurred along by Hollywood and the marketing genius of Decker’s Outdoor Corporation, who acquired UGG Australia in 1995.
Knowing this tale of origin still doesn’t answer the question of why. Why are Americans willing to pay exorbitantly high prices for a non-waterproof boot that does little to warm their feet when it really matters — like in a Chicago winter, for example? The short answer is simple: if they were cheap, like many of the “knock offs” that have popped up over the years, no one would want them. There must be a price for chic after all. Remember that the ugg came before the UGG and many of these “knock off” brands are just other Australian manufacturers that decided to join UGG, riding the wave across America. Many of these companies are even older and more steeped in ugg manufacturing tradition than UGG Australia. Aussie Dogs, Warmbat, and Emu are just a few of the authentic Australian uggs that can be purchased in America. Even Uggs and Rugs sells ugg boots online for overseas shipment.
Although most people will say that the reasons they like UGGs are comfort and warmth, these “knock off” brands are just as warm and comfortable, often at a lower price. Even fuzzy pig slippers are just as warm and comfortable, not to mention the bargain pricing. The second most common reason you will hear from UGG wearers is that they’re unique and original. After ten years, they’re not original. If it’s originality you’re after, again try fuzzy pig slippers.
So, when will we see an end to this trend? This is the hardest question of all to answer. More than likely we’re going to have to wait until something else comes along to replace them. Another foot fad will have to become cooler than uggs. Perhaps it will be fuzzy pig slippers. All we need is a group of “cool” people to give them a try — surfers, actors, rock stars, and a few French models should do. Then jack up the price a few hundred smackers and wait for the orders to roll in. Until then, love them or hate them, UGGs, ugs, uggs, ughs, and maybe even fugs are going to be here to stay.
This article on Ugg boots was supplied to us by Christopher Gryniewicz from Constant Content.